Marks of the True Christian (Pt. 1)

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” – Romans 12:9 (ESV)

It’s sad that many of the lines drawn for us these days in the world are in gray, rather than black or white, or right and wrong. What’s “good” for you isn’t necessarily good for me. But if it feels good, well, by all means, do it. Relativism is alive and well, unfortunately, and much of what the Bible says and teaches is foreign today to many people.

One of the things I find so strange about atheism is any discussion of good and evil within that belief system. If we’re all some kind of cosmic accident formed by particles thrown together, then why value human life more than that of a giraffe or a turtle or a ladybug ? To the atheist, why is the loss of human life through a crime considered “evil” then ? What makes it tragic ? How is good and evil defined ? By who ?

In a sermon on this text, John Piper explains that the thought process of those who don’t believe in objective right and wrong of course ultimately hits its dead end. And whether they feel it does or not, there is objective good and evil, and those who refuse to believe that now will ultimately believe one day. As Pastor John explains:

“The good and true and right and beautiful have objective foundation in God, and in his self-revelation, Jesus Christ. Which means that the simplest peasant in Russia or Jew in Germany or slave in Georgia or Christian prisoner in Rome can say to the most powerful Stalin or Hitler or plantation owner or Caesar: ‘No sir, this is wrong. And all your power does not make it right. There is God above you. And therefore right and wrong have objective reality apart from you.'”

*** to be continued ***

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10 thoughts on “Marks of the True Christian (Pt. 1)

  1. Neil R

    The reason you feel perplexed by discussions of good and evil within the belief system of atheism is because atheism isn’t a belief system.
    Atheism is a position of rejecting a claim of god. The loss of a human life is still bad even to an observer that doesn’t believe in a god and believe it or not your sense of right and wrong aren’t bestowed upon you from an invisible creator.
    There are lots of things in the Bible that are foreign to today’s civilized society like murdering people from different ‘tribes’ and considering slaves and women as property.

    If you really want to talk about relativism then consider that when reading the Bible you currently have a higher standard of morals then the characters in the Bible.

    How is Jesus dying for your sins any different from the Aztecs sacrificing a maiden for the crops to grow? They’re both conclusions made from ignorance and immoral.

  2. Joe Post author

    Neil,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it and am glad to hear your perspective. I’m trying to understand where the idea of right and wrong originates for an atheist. For example, is it particular to the type of government and the laws they currently live under ? You mention that a “sense of right and wrong aren’t bestowed upon you from an invisible creator.” I would take that to mean that you believe they are bestowed on us from somewhere else then ? Where ?

    I’m asking these questions sincerely and trying to understand the atheist position on this. Thank you again for visiting and I hope you’ll return to comment further at some point.

  3. Neil R

    Joe,

    Our sense of morals are a combination of biology and learned communal behavior.

    So as to chip away from this sense of alienation between us I’d ask you to imagine us both in the same room confronted with the same moral decisions (watching someone drop their wallet while walking away). I’d imagine we would come to the same conclusion even though you believe in god and I don’t.
    I love my family and friends just like you and I want my community to be safe just like you.

    Now I am going on the assumption that your morality is similar to mine because I’m assuming you’re based somewhere in America. Just yesterday I was arguing with someone who was a devote Muslim who claimed marriage with an underage girl is morally justified and his reasoning was because girls are raised to be more mature in his culture.
    It’s things like that and the mixing of Church and State that make me more anti-theist then atheist.
    Take for example Australia just appointed their first Prime minister (who is atheist) and the Christians in that country are angry and trying to say it’s a Christian country and atheist are trying to turn it into an atheist country. They are mistaken, Australia modeled their constitution after America’s which makes it a secular country. Meaning it’s neither Christian nor atheist, that’s the beauty of our Constitution.
    Sorry for the tangent of points and antidotes but to bring it back to morality, a persons sense of right or wrong is subjective to where you live, your environment and other social economic factors as well as the biological instinct to not kill fellow humans which is a demonstrable instinct in other mammals as well.

  4. Brad

    “Atheism is a position of rejecting a claim of god.”

    Thereby you express, in your belief that there is no God when the universe and its origins screams otherwise, a belief system – in other words you’ve just contradicted yourself by showing us the very belief system you deny.

    Brad

  5. Neil R

    Brad,

    In my whole life I’ve never heard one single scientific explanation or theory of a super being. You’d think with the advances in science they’d have at least one hypothesis on the matter.
    Think about the theory of gravity for a second, people have studied it for decades and we have books that build upon years and years of accumulated data and if those books were to disappear today you’d still be able to start from scratch simply by dropping an apple and measuring the rate of fall.

    If the universe screams a “creator” then you should be able to measure some type of footprint of said “creator” if not then this creator is the same and indistinguishable from a fantasy character.

    Do you remember the last scientific show that tried to give a hypothesis of what god is and how he works? Never because you need at least a shred of evidence that he even exist which is why belief in god is BASED ON FAITH. That’s not just a clever saying.

  6. Tony

    Good post and comments.

    Keith,

    I would say we are at an impasse. While I can neither satisfactory prove to you God’s existence, you cannot disprove His existence to me.

    Interestingly, God actually proclaims that there are no atheists. He tells us that everyone knows that He exists but because of the fallen nature of humanity we are able to suppress the truth of His existence.

    At days end God draws humanity back to Himself for His purposes. I get the fact that you don’t believe, but my prayer and hope is that by God’s grace you would.

    The other thing that God proclaims is that if we seek Him we will find Him. While I can see you feeling like it would be a waste of time, I would challenge you to offer up a sincere prayer to God (I know, is that even possibly when you don’t believe?) and ask God to reveal Himself to you. I would also, suggest reading one of the Gospels in the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) after you prayed and see what happens. Maybe you have done all this before but if you haven’t, give it a shot.

    Thanks for the dialogue.

    Tony

  7. Joe Post author

    Neil,

    Thanks again for visiting here and offering your perspective. You mentioned “biological instincts” of ours that are similar to other mammals…do atheists place humans on a higher level than other life forms (mammals for example) or is there equality with them ? Where does this biological instinct originate from?

    I would echo much of what Tony says above. You had mentioned that you could not see the difference between Jesus’ death on the cross and the Aztec sacrifice, as an example. Neil, the difference is that Jesus died on the cross for your sins as well as mine. He promises that whoever seeks Him in earnest will find Him and will never be turned away – “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). Regardless of the different laws of the particular country we live in, our environment, or our economic class, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But God promises that anyone who comes to Him in search of forgiveness, and puts their trust in His Son for the forgiveness of their sins, will have eternal life ! This is the greatest news in the world, and is something that is offered nowhere else…

    I would also say that no matter what is said here, it’s only God’s Word that matters in the end. His Word is the only one that offers hope in this dying world. I would urge you to pray and ask God to reveal Himself to you, and to read one of the Gospels and hear from Him yourself. I’m sure that your days are very busy, but please make some time to do so and don’t put it off too long. I hope you’ll return here again sometime and let us know what you have found.

    Neil, thanks again for visiting and for giving us your perspective. I’ll be praying for you, friend.

  8. Neil R

    Tony,

    It’s up to people that make the claim to prove the claim and no one can disprove something that hasn’t been proven yet because that’s not logical.

    I was a believer for the majority of my life and
    I even graduated from a Catholic high school and had to take Theology for years. (Monsignor Bonner HS in PA I’m one of two classmates that graduated 96′ with awards in Theology) and my reasons for becoming an atheist are because my reasoning skills have gotten better and now I don’t believe extraordinary things without proper proof. It is no more possible for me to re-believe in god then it is to re-believe in Santa Claus.

    Joe,

    Atheism doesn’t have any dogmas, it’s just a personal rejection of a god claim. Speaking for myself I do think the human race is a priority above other lifeforms but I do have a friend who is a vegetarian so I have doubts about her. (joke)

    I do understand your position that Jesus died for our sins but hopefully you could see it from my position that the ideal of a human sacrifice is an old barbaric practice of humanities past and that the ideal of sin being something your born with that condemns you to a form of debt to a higher being doesn’t make sense.

    I don’t believe in the whole you’re born bad or good thing, those aren’t predetermined things and they can’t be disembodied from the fact that being good or bad is determined through your intentions and actions.

    I’ll leave you guys alone. I consider myself a person with a good moral compass, I’m politically active, I’m in school for Graphic Design and I spend my spare time defending and promoting positive atheism online. I have nothing against what you’re doing here and for the most part it does seem positive and inclusive. It’s the ones that bash other groups and or not inclusive that I don’t like.

    So if you guys are ever in the Philadelphia area and want to hang out and get a few drinks or go fishing in the surrounding parts I’d be willing to show you around. Be safe guys.

    Neil R. itoproject@gmail.com

  9. Tony

    Neil,

    Thanks for the dialogue and the invite. I get what you are saying with the extraordinary claim requiring proof. I would submit my existence and the existence of the material world as proof of God’s existence.

    Additionally, I see that you define your atheism as a position which rejects claims of God. So how do you answer the question of whether God exists? If your position is that God does not exists, is it possible that God does exist and you are blinded to it?

    The problem with absolute assertions is that there is no logical wiggle room. I will yield that my claim to God may not be as logical or provable as Newton’s claim to gravity, but I would submit that you must equally yield that a claim of no God as an absolute truth would require the one with the claim to know absolutely everything.

    So why does this dialogue even matter? It matters to me because of the teachings of Jesus. As His disciple I am commanded to be a witness to His life and His teaching. One of His most difficult teaching is the exclusivity of His sacrifice being the only reconciliation to God. This is Jesus’ teaching. He announced that He was in fact God in human form. He taught that there exists a schism between man and God and that reconciliation only comes through Him.

    I know that with your background you know these teaching. I just wanted to give you insight as to why the dialogue between us is important on my end.

    Again I appreciate your engagement and the invite is right back at you. If you are ever in Nashville look me up.

    email: tony.barnette[at]gmail.com

    Tony

  10. Joe Post author

    Neil,

    Thanks so much again for visiting as often as you have over the last few days and for offering your thoughts here. And thank you for the gracious invite – my wife has family and friends in the Philadelphia area so if we’re down that way sometime I’ll try to catch up with you. So beware – you’ve officially been warned 🙂

    You’re welcome here anytime friend….

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